Red Lentil Coconut Curry

curryI’m not going to lie. This took forever to make, and although delicious, maybe a bit ambitious for a weeknight.

Tip:  Did you know that you can place a can of coconut milk in the freezer for 20 minutes and the coconut butter will rise to the top? You can use this for sauteing.

In a large soup pot, 1 large onion, minced. Saute’ in coconut butter or 1 T olive oil over medium-high heat until transparent but not browned.

Then, add the following and cook over medium low (stir constantly for 3 minutes, don’t let the spices or onion brown): 1 T minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 2 t curry powder, 1/2 t each turmeric/cumin/pepper, 1/4 t red pepper, 1/4 t cinnamon, 2-3 bay leaves. At this point it will start to smell like your favorite Indian restaurant.

Add a can of coconut milk (13.5 oz), 1/4 C soy sauce, and 1 C tomato sauce, simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.

In a separate saucepan, cook 2 C rinsed dried red lentils with 5 C water for 15 minutes. Add, with liquid, to soup pot.

Cut 1 med head of cauliflower (cut into 1 inch florets), 1 large sweet potato (cut into 1 inch cubes), 1/4 head cabbage (cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks), and 1-2 C peas (optional, I didn’t use them). Add to soup pot and cook over medium heat just until tender. Serve over brown rice (I used basmati ’cause that’s my favorite).

Optional: You can serve with Indian chutneys and pickles, fresh diced pears, roasted sunflower seeds, plain yogurt. Me? Eh, I took an hour getting the non-optional part ready. Maybe next time.

The verdict: This was a very mild Indian dish, but with great flavor. It did take awhile to make, but I think I’ll make it again. Perhaps I’ll figure out  a way to make it a bit spicier.

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Chard Utopia

chardutopiaThis recipe, adapted from Simply in Season, is an interpretation of spanakopita but uses swiss chard instead of spinach. I actually had to go buy swiss chard at the farmer’s market because I didn’t have enough from the CSA. I didn’t quite have the 2 1/2 lbs called for once I removed the stems, but it barely fit in the skillet as it is so I’m not sure what I would have done if I did have the full amount.

In large frying pan, saute’ the following in 1 T olive oil for 5 minutes: 2 C minced onion, 1 t dried basil, 1 t dried oregano, 1/4 t salt

Add 2 1/2 lbs swiss chard (stems removed, finely chopped) and cook until wilted, about 5-8 minutes. Then, sprinkle in 4-6 cloves of minced garlic and 1 T flour; stir in; cook over medium heat 2-3 minutes.

Take the skillet off the heat and add 2 C of crumbled feta cheese and 1 C cottage cheese, add pepper to taste. Mix well.

Now for the phyllo dough. I had a heck of a time finding this. I found a 1 lb box, and it was divided into two. In a 9×13 pan, oil the pan and put half the dough down. The directions say to spray each sheet with olive oil, but I thought that would add a lot of olive oil. So I left it. Then put the filling on top of that, and then the rest of the phyllo on top of that. Again, the directions say to spray each sheet individually. Tuck in the edges and bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, “until golden and crispy.”

The verdict: Very tasty, very rich. The feta and chard taste excellent. DH suggested a white cream sauce would be a great addition; I have to agree, although I’m pretty sure traditional spanakopita doesn’t have it.

Tofu Hodgepodge

This recipe is adapted VERY loosely from “Seitan with Peanut Sauce” from Simply in Season. For starters, I went to a health food store and a large grocery store and found no sign of seitan, which is apparently a great “alternative protein” that is easy to make. However, I decided that I am going to wait until I cook through More with Less before experimenting with that sort of thing. So I substituted cubed extra firm tofu. And THEN, when I was almost done, I discovered that we have no peanuts. Hence, “Seitan with Peanut Sauce” became “Tofu Hodgepodge,” or according to my husband, “Basic Stir Fry that You Ruined by Putting Vegetarian Fake Meat in It.”

tofuhodgepodgeFor this recipe, I started by sauteing one large onion (chopped) and 4 cloves of garlic (minced) in sesame oil for 5 minutes. I then added a cubed package of tofu and sauteed for another 5 minutes.

I added the following vegetables, all chopped, based on what I had leftover in my frig. That’s why I called it ‘garbage.’ Included: broccoli, carrots, green pepper, purple pepper, bok choy, eggplant. I added 1/3 C water and 2 T of soy sauce and sauteed, covered, for 10 minutes. Added another few shakes of soy sauce and served over rice noodles.

The verdict: Eh. It was fine, and I’ll probably stick the concept (throw the veggies lurking in your fridge in a stir fry and add soy sauce and some sort of meat, fake or not) in the back of my mind.

Velvety Vegetable Soup

Today I decided to try out my new kitchen appliance: an immersion blender. The weather was perfect for it: cool, rainy, and overcast. The recipe? Velvety Vegetable Soup from Simply in Season. It’s from the spring section, which is interesting because I noticed that the vegetables are similar in the spring and autumn, at least the green ones.

vegsoupBecause I only had one leek, this was definitely an exercise in adaptation/substitution. Instead of using 4 cups of diced leeks, I used one leek, 1 bunch of green onions, and two fennel bulbs. I did have the 1 medium onion (chopped) and 1 cup of celery (although I used a lot of tops, not so much the stalk). Sauteed this in a few tablespoons of oil for 15 minutes.

Then, I added 2 t tarragon, 1 t thyme, 1 t salt, and a dash of pepper; 4 C chicken broth, and 3 C diced potatoes. You are supposed to cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, which the recipe says is 15 minutes but mine must have been stubborn because it was more than 20.

Finally, add 1 bunch of chopped spinach and simmer another 5 minutes. Now it’s time to have fun with the immersion blender (or you can use a regular blender).  As a finishing touch you can add 1/2 C milk.

This makes 4 servings, at about 259 calories per serving.

The verdict: The smell when you’re making it is heavenly. Even Troy thought so. Believe it or not, it tasted even better. I think I should have used actual celery instead of the tops because the celery flavor was a wee bit overpowering, but I could still taste a hint of fennel which was awesome.  Oh, and the Cuisinart immersion blender was a DREAM! I should have bought one of those a long time ago.

Creamed (Asparagus or) Spinach (Omelet)

spinachomeletThe whirlwind of travel and activity has been getting to me. I took my comp time early, as part of my vacation a couple of weeks ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But this morning I had to take the morning off to recover from jet lag and just let my mind rest. Now I know why we are instructed to rest on the Sabbath.

This morning I decided to make something comforting, so I chose the creamed spinach omelet recipe. As the recipe title notes, as with most Simply in Season recipes there are endless variations and you could use asparagus instead of spinach. And as I now know thanks to my “cooking with greens” class, I could also substitute swiss chard for the spinach.  Mind you, I have never made an omelet before. But I do think it turned out well.

First step: prepare the veggies. If using asparagus (1 lb), cut into 3/4 inch pieces and cook in water about 12 minutes. If using spinach/swiss chard, (3 C loosely packed) you can steam or go directly to

Step two: Melt 1 T butter in a fry pan, add 1 T flour and mix until smooth, then gradually add 2 C milk. It’s supposed to thicken, but mine didn’t much so I added another T of flour. Then I added the spinach. At this point it starts to look like spinach milk soup, and you might start to wonder about the sanity of whoever came up with this recipe, but then if you look on the bottom of the page you realize that Mildred from Indiana, Cheryl from Maryland, and Pearl from Virginia all contributed some form of this recipe, so it has to be going somewhere so carry on.

Step three: Whisk 2 eggs and 1 T of milk (I grabbed a T from the spinach/milk soup mix since I figured it wouldn’t miss it). Spray the small saute pan with coconut oil (you can use any you like, I just love using coconut oil for eggs). Pour the eggs into the pan. Pray. Here is the direction that helped me understand what omelet making is all about “As they set, lift edges, letting uncooked portion flow underneath. When eggs are set, spread creamed spinach or asparagus over half of the omelet. Fold over and serve.” For some reason it clicked, and I did the lift edge thing and it actually worked! OK so as you can see from the picture it’s not perfect, but definitely not bad for my very first try at making an omelet.

The verdict: Despite my initial misgivings, the omelet was seriously yummy. Very creamy. By the way, the creamy mixture makes enough for two omelets. The recipe also gives a popover variation which sounds yummy, but you’ll have to buy the cookbook for that 😉

Mexican Stuffed Peppers

Much to my husband’s dismay, these peppers contain no meat and were not particularly filling. So if you have a husband or an appetite, you might want to double the recipe.

stuffedpeppersAs you might guess, the recipe begins by gutting 4 peppers (can be any color) and steaming them in 1 inch of water for 5-8  minutes. Meanwhile, saute 1 small chopped onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic in a big pan. Set the peppers aside when done. To the onion and garlic, add 1 large heirloom tomato, 1 seeded jalapeno (minced), 2 T fresh parsley, and a dash each of oregano, cumin, salt, and a bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes, then add 2 C corn (about 2 ears) and 1 can of black beans. Simmer 10 minutes. Then, stuff the peppers with the mixture, top with cheese, and cook for 20  minutes or so at 350 F.

The verdict: As you can guess, the husband would have liked chicken in it. I think it’s a good recipe but I would have personally upped the spices.

(Vegetable or) Fruit Oven Pancake

Sometimes, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, you find yourself kind of hungry. Not super duper hungry (maybe because you went out for breakfast or had a late breakfast/lunch), but in the mood for a little something. And sometimes the weather is a bit cool, so you’re in your sweatpants just chilling with the dogs. Times like this call for brinner.

Brinner is breakfast for dinner, a time when you pull out the pancake or waffle recipes that are too time consuming for real breakfast in the morning because you’re too busy. But just perfect for late afternoons.

The Vegetable of Fruit Oven Pancake from Simply in Season is another extremely versatile recipe. For some reason it’s in the spring section (here’s a little secret: you can find variations in each of the seasons for the other seasons. So if it’s autumn, you’ll want to look at the spring and summer and winter recipes too).

Today, I was in the mood for an apple oven pancake.  The recipes for fruit and vegetable are very similar.

They both start out with putting 1 T butter in a pie pan, and preheating it in the oven until the oven reaches 400 degrees.

appleovenpancake.jpgThe filling:

For a vegetable version: chop 2/3 C vegetables such as asparagus, leeks, broccoli, mushrooms, squash, whatever. You can also add fresh or dried herbs.

For a fruit version: thinly slice an apple or pear. When oven is preheated, prebake the apples on the bottom of the pie pan for 10 minutes (sprinkle a little cinnamon and brown sugar over top if desired).

Mix the batter. The base recipe is 3/4 C milk, 2/3 C flour, 2 eggs, 1/4 tsp salt. For the fruit version add 2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.  You can mix this either in a blender or with a whisk, until smooth.

Pour the batter over the filling and bake for 20-25 minutes.

The topping: For the fruit version, you can sprinkle powdered sugar over top. For the vegetable version, use cheese.

The verdict: The husband is out of town, so you’ll have t take my word for it.  I was planning to use some of the new local maple syrup I got at “our” farm . . . no need! Oh my word, it is so tasty and moist from the apples/butter/sugar. I don’t think I want to know the calorie count, although next week I’ll be including them with the recipes since the husband and I are going to get back on the diet wagon. Definitely a keeper!!!!